a young man with glasses who is suffering from an earache

Eagle Syndrome: Signs and Treatment Options

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

You're likely in the know about common secondary ailments that can impact your dental health. But are you familiar with Eagle syndrome? Many people are not. This syndrome expresses itself as throat and facial pain and is typically associated with the removal of tonsils or trauma to the throat area.

If this sounds like something you could be dealing with, contact your dentist right away. In the meantime, here's what to look out for and what to expect from your care.

Signs of Eagle Syndrome

What is Eagle syndrome? Eagle syndrome is also known as an elongated styloid process or styloid-stylohyoid syndrome. The styloid process is a small bone located just below your ear. This small bone can cause a lot of pain if elongation or if calcification occurs. These things result in pinched vessels or nerves and lead to inflammation.

Let's go over Eagle syndrome symptoms so you know what to look for. They include:

  • Sore throat
  • Earache
  • Reduced hearing
  • Tinnitus
  • Trouble swallowing or chewing
  • Feeling as though you have something in your throat
  • Pain when yawning or turning your neck
  • Facial pain

According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD), only 4 percent of the population have an elongated styloid process, and most patients are asymptomatic. Eagle syndrome is very rare. It's estimated to occur in 1 of 62,500 people, and women are three times more likely than men to have this syndrome.

Diagnosis of Eagle Syndrome

Diagnosis of Eagle syndrome can be challenging because there are many illnesses associated with having a sore throat. Your first response may be to visit your doctor, which is always a good idea. But it's also important to schedule an appointment with your dentist. They can examine your mouth for signs of other problems and recommend the best next steps.

Your doctor or dentist will probably feel your head and neck for any signs of an unusually long styloid process. They may also use an X-ray or CT scan to see your styloid process and stylohyoid ligament in better detail.

You might also be asked to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist to rule out any other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.

Surgical and Non-Surgical Treatments

If you get diagnosed with Eagle syndrome, your medical team will decide the best way to treat it based on your specific case and pain level. Eagle syndrome treatment usually starts with conservative medical management before surgery of any kind is considered.

According to Medscape, medication treatment may include:

  • Pain relievers
  • Seizure medication
  • Antidepressants
  • Local application of steroids or numbing agents

Suppose non-surgical treatment isn't working for you. In that case, your medical team may recommend steroids, pain block injections, or surgery to remove the bone, according to a report published in the Journal of Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery. After surgery, you may receive an analgesics prescription, and your provider will ask you to return in seven days so they can remove your stitches.

You're now informed on the ins and outs of Eagle syndrome. If you're having trouble pinpointing what's happening with throat and facial pain, check-in with your dental professional, they're a fantastic resource to help you with pain in the area. If you're diagnosed with Eagle syndrome, remember that there are plenty of treatment options. And that medicine is usually the first choice before surgery. You've made a great choice to read up on this condition.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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